Recently, I had the dubious opportunity to watch C.J. Mahaney give his testimony. We posted it last week but will post the video here for your convenience.
I was struck by a number of points and have decided to give our readers a bird’s eye view of a non-SGMer who used to be a member of a reformed Baptist church. That church’s lead pastor is friends with this self-aggrandized “Head Apostle” and utilized some of his techniques for “crowd control.” To that pastor, I say, “Friends don’t let friends abuse their congregations.” So, without further adieu, here is what I think.
– He claims he is the worst sinner of the world.
C.J. appears to be somewhat self-centered and imbued with “false humility”. He also has a high view of himself because he functions as the “head apostle” of Sovereign Grace Ministries. It is no wonder that he likes to say that he is “worst sinner in the world” since the great, real apostle, Paul, did so as well. And it appears that ol’ C.J. would like nothing better than to be identified with Paul. But, Mr. Theologian (who has no formal education beyond high school) has the audacity to head his own seminary that he calls the “Pastors College“, which is a whopping nine months long! He is so secure in his own abilities that he will make those who have graduated from a real seminary with a real Masters of Divinity, repeat school again at his special “seminary.” Check out this excerpt from SGM Refuge, which can be found at the following link:
“…there was a pastor who graduated from Southern Seminary and then was bitten by the SG bug and went to the PC. After graduating from the PC he was placed in an SG church in an associate position. When the SG ruling council replaced the church’s founding pastor (do to health and gifting), they passed over the seminary/PC grad and instead installed a PC student (he hadn’t finished the PC yet). It struck me as odd that the seminary/PC grad made it through his training programs, apparently confirmed in gifitings, only to have them questioned after all that training and experience. To me the process appeared cold and capricious.”
Now, let’s take a look at what a REAL apostle meant when he claimed to be the worst sinner. Prior to his conversion, Saul, a well-known Pharisee, took to persecuting Christians. He was present for the stoning death of Stephen. He became known as Paul only after his conversion. One is struck by the number of references that Paul makes to his previous life of persecuting Christians. He also realized that he was persecuting Christ. When he was called by God on that fateful day, he heard Jesus asking him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” For the rest of his ministry, he held deep regret for those days preceding his conversion.
One must take Paul’s words in context — not just in context of that verse and paragraph, but the whole context of Scripture surrounding the life of this incredible man. Please note what Paul himself says in these verses from Timothy.
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.” (1 Timothy 1:12-17, NIV)
Note that Paul calls himself a blasphemer. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit means to attribute the work of God to Satan. Paul probably is admitting that he thought the works of the Christians were from the evil one. He calls himself a persecutor and a violent man. This is obviously referring to his complicity in the persecution and death of Christians. He said he was the “worst of sinners” because he persecuted Christ through the Christians. Jesus, in His call to Paul, starts off by acknowledging this sin and pain.
Interestingly, Paul supported himself as a tentmaker. He did not burden the early churches with the need to support him financially. How frequently is this type of self-support seen today in SGM and other churches? Can you imagine C.J. ever telling his Pastors College students to go out and support themselves financially so they won’t burden their churches?
I have noted that many of the SGMers, particularly pastors, vie for the title of “the worst of sinners”. It is almost a badge of honor. Are these folks willing to bear the burden that the real apostle — Paul — had to bear when he heard Jesus ask him why he was persecuting him? This folks, is not a badge that we should wish to wear. It carries with it the pain of persecuting and even killing Christians.
C.J. wishes to identify himself with Paul and so uses his words; however, to fracture a famous quote, “C.J., I have read the life of Paul, and you are no Paul.”
– He claims he is a Pastor/Athlete
Huh? Just like a real pastor gets seminary training, an athlete is recognized by his success in vetted athletic events. So, C.J. admittedly was a drug addict in high school and whatever amount of college he may or may not have attended. Then he claims to have spent some time at University of Maryland playing basketball. This man was no college basketball star. In fact, he didn’t even spend much time in college. Did he play intramurals or pick-up games at U of M? C.J. has never been measured academically or physically. Yet he calls himself a pastor/athlete. A Jewish friend of mine would say, “Such chutzpah!” And this from the paragon of humility, yet!
– He claims heavy usage of LSD
There are potential long-term effects of heavy LSD usage. These may include flashbacks. Also, there is a phenomenon known as LSD psychosis. C.J. seems to harp on his druggie life just a bit too much. So much so, in fact, that it strikes this writer as a bit insincere.
Back in the 70s, it was considered too cool to have used drugs and then become a Christian. The Christian testimonies were filled with “I was a druggie and now I am saved”. Many of these stories were found to have been exaggerated. I know C.J. is vying for the title of “the worst sinner and therefore the man most likely to succeed Paul.” However, LSD usage does not rank up there with persecuting and killing Christians.
– He stresses man’s sinful nature and the cross
It strikes me as odd that C.J. so heavily emphasizes his (and everybody else’s) sin. His stories seem to stop at the foot of the cross. In other words, the sentence ends there with an emphatic period!
We believe in our sin and sin nature; however, a pastor at the church where I attend made an excellent statement regarding grieving God this past Sunday. He stated that we must take note of our sins and bring them to the cross…but wait, the pastor did not end the sentence there. He said that we must repent of our sins and bring them to the cross; and Jesus, because of His sacrifice, will forgive us and impute to us His righteousness so that we can find joy in our forgiveness. That’s right, “joy” is the word before the period.
C.J. seems to have a knack for picking and choosing what he wishes to emphasize. Why does he always seem to end the story of our relationship with “The Savior” (as he so often calls Jesus Christ) at the foot of the cross, stressing our sinful state? We believe it is so that his reportedly abusive ministry can control its members who might have some suggestions or even, (GASP) complaints about the way things are done in SGM. How convenient!
If we forget that God forgives us our sins and even gives us the Holy Spirit, then the likes of C.J. do not have to listen to these worms who forget their place. How he manages, “as the world’s worst sinner” to avoid being labeled as one of the worms, and therefore, can mete out judgments and punishments, is a magic trick worthy of David Copperfield. Yep, that’s right. He’s the world’s worst sinner, but he can tell everyone else why they are soooooo wrong and in need of the Head Apostle’s discipline. Egads!
C.J., remember, the Gospel doesn’t end with men and women wallowing in their sins and sinful nature. Jesus rose from the dead and we are free! Hallelujah! So next time, don’t end with a period. Apply a semicolon and, as the late Paul Harvey would say, tell the rest of the story.
– He has no idea why God chose him to be saved
Here is where I feel C.J. continues to jump off the Gospel bus. Scripture is very clear. God saved C.J., along with the rest of us, because He dearly loves us. God created us because He decided to share His awesome love with His people. The more I hear about Sovereign Grace churches, along with their poorly trained leaders, the more sad I feel. In some very unnatural way, C.J. has created churches which are dismal imitations of the joy, peace, and love that is a hallmark of the fellowship of the forgiven. C.J. seems to have created a fellowship of the chronically dismal, wallowing in the sins and foibles of their humanity, sadly never discovering how our Father cherishes and loves each one of them.
So, in remembering Pharaoh who misused the beloved tribe of Israel, I urge C.J. and his flunkies to “LET GOD’S PEOPLE GO!” Release them to the joy and love of the Father, which they will find through the infinite grace and love of Jesus Christ.